- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- D.R. Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- Guinea Bissau
- Ivory Coast
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
Friday, May 26, 2017
What Middle Class?
May 21, a report by the Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing, based at the University of Cape Town, released a report that estimated sub-Saharan Africa’s middle classes at 100-million, excluding South Africa’s.
Any proper assessment of Africa’s middle class should consider the vulnerability of this class rather than hold a romanticised view.
Definitions of who the middle class is remain unclear. The most recent
Unilever report defines the middle classes as those who earn between $4 and $70 a day, whereas the AfDB report defines it as those earning between $2 and $20. The underlying assumption is that the middle class is able to buy items beyond basic food items. But even this assumption becomes unrealistic, if we consider what $2 can buy.
Unilever study, the African middle classes include poor Kenyans who live in Kibera, Nairobi, which is Africa’s largest slum and among the five largest slums on Earth.In Nairobi, $2 a day cannot buy bread, milk and public transport to and from the city centre where some of the Kibera residents conduct street trading.
Also, in terms of lifestyle, individuals who earn
$2 a day are far apart from those who earn $70. An individual who earns $70 in Nairobi is a senior executive and is able to afford a mortgage and a reasonably priced second-hand SUV. These disparities suggest that we should either change the definition of the middle class or change the misguided obsession with consumption.
A survey found that about three-quarters of the middle class in
South Africa are under financial stress. Most of the black middle class in South Africa are roughly three salaries away from poverty. This is the length of time the banks allow for catch-up on unpaid mortgages, after which a foreclosure is initiated.
South Africa more than 20 000 houses every year are either auctioned or served with sale in execution notices. On a per-capita basis, the repossession rate is four times higher than the world average and 20 times more than countries such as Denmark and Singapore. This harsh reality points to the precarious nature of South Africa’s middle class, most of whom are black.
Before the Industrial Revolution in
Britain, the social classes at the time were the peasants and the nobility. The Industrial Revolution created two more social classes, the working class and the middle class. The middle class consisted of shop owners and factory owners. As the Industrial Revolution spread to the rest of Europe and the United States, so did an urban middle class.